Each December we face the compulsory list that comes with properly celebrating the holidays: Has Miracle on 34th Street been watched? Has the tree been decorated? The menorah dusted off? Has the shopping list been ticked off, added to and ticked off again? Perry Como reemerges into our homes as millions of Americans dutifully turn on their local holiday stations—not because we’ve suffered at all without Home for the Holidays cranking on repeat, but because that is simply what is done this time of year. But what about the holiday playlist?
When you’re putting together the holiday playlist this season, we suggest slightly mixing up the selection. (Gasp!) After all, Mariah Carey has already earned over $60 million for her hit All I Want for Christmas is You—she’s doing just fine without another stream. Instead, consult our list of both new and time-honored holiday hits that are fun and festive.
For decorating, baking, wrapping
These songs are absolutely the right choice if you are looking for the music equivalent to a “Frosty Gingerbread” Yankee candle.
Serena Ryder — “Christmas Kisses”
Indeed, it’s another “presents are dumb!” Christmas song, but Serena refreshingly adds both dolphin and Mary Poppins references to this one, and has a music video featuring holiday-themed dogs that is worth pausing the ribbon tying to watch.
Kacey Musgraves — “Ribbons And Bows”
A cheerful song and good reminder that presents aren’t everything (you’re so right, Kacey!). Listen to it ironically as you wrap.
Wild Child — “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”
An already perfect song now featuring ukulele? Organic laughter sprinkling the album? Don’t mind if I do!
2020 has given us a lot to think about this year—and a lot of time to do so. Here’s some tunes that will turn up your emotional factor.
Dolly Parton — “Mary Did You Know”
From her first Christmas album in 30 years, A Holly Dolly Christmas, “It’s the sweetest song about beautiful things being born out of unexpected situations and that’s a message we all need to hear now more than ever,” says Dolly.
Liam Payne — “All I Want for Christmas”
Nope–this is not a Mariah Carey remake. It’s a soulful ballad track by Liam that’s from his debut album LP1 out December 6th.
For the drive
This section is split into “Traffic Jams” and “Pump Up Jams” because hectic holiday music will do nothing for you while bumper to bumper.
Sam Smith — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Traffic is sad, and so are some Christmas songs. Especially when sung by Sam Smith’s ever-anguished voice of gold. A good song for the 405.
Jessie J — “This Christmas Day”
This soulful hit is about missing a loved one on Christmas. Or maybe it’s about missing your sofa while you’re stuck on the freeway. Who’s to say?
Kate Bush — “Among Angels”
Kate Bush just gets it. Her winter album, 50 Words for Snow, will both bring you to tears and be there to comfort you back to joy.
Pump Up Jams
Gwen Stefani — “My Gift Is You”
Is Gwen’s holiday album worth the listen? Absolutely. Does she suddenly sing with an unexplained country accent? You bet she does. (Looking at you, Blake.)
RuPaul — “Christmas Party”
If you enjoy a good car dance (who doesn’t?!) and if you prefer the phrase “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to be rapped to you (who doesn’t?!), look no further. RuPaul puts it best: “Holiday cheer that you don’t gotta work for.”
Lindsey Stirling — “Warmer in the Winter”
You may have not seen this avalanche of Christmas cheer coming, but it certainly saw you. Cue the holiday fiddle.
For the party
Here is your holiday music that doesn’t sound much like holiday music. (For all you grinches out there, be sure to grab a party favor on your way out. It’s coal.)
Carla Bruni, Michel Legrand — “Jolis Sapins”
Assuming your guests do not speak French, they might assume this is a classy dinner party tune unrelated to the holiday season. He or she might even ask you, “What is this delightful music?” You will smile knowingly. The perfect crime.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings — “8 Days (of Hanukkah)”
This R&B hit doesn’t sound like a Christmas song because (ha!) it’s not one! The words “dreidel” and “latkes” never sounded so groovy. A party playlist must.
Ingrid Michaelson — “Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter”
It’s hard to pick just one song off of “Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season.” Honestly, I listened to it in July. Which means even the Scroogiest of Scrooges can enjoy this in December.
Lindsey Stirling — “Christmas C’mon”
You may know her as a finalist from Dancing With the Stars, but this rock violinist and YouTube choreographer is a recording artist too with a song that will definitely add pop to your party, the rock violinist and Dancing With the Stars finalist found fame on YouTube with her choreographed performances of covers as well as original songs all while playing the violin. This fun feel-good holiday song will bring some pep to your holiday playlist.